After steering the Congress to a stupendous victory in Punjab, Amarinder Singh will take oath as chief minister in Chandigarh on Thursday, a ceremony which will be attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Amarinder, who turned 75 on March 11 when assembly results were declared, will be sworn-in as the state’s 26th chief minister along with nine cabinet ministers.
The ceremony will take place at Punjab Raj Bhavan at 10 am and the oath will be administered by Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore.
The state can have a maximum of 18 ministers. The Congress has 77 MLAs in the assembly.
‘Besides Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah and former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will attend the swearing-in,’ a Congress release said in Chandigarh.
Former Union ministers P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Ashwani Kumar, Rajeev Shukla, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh will also be present.
All India Congress Committee general secretaries Ahmed Patel and Ambika Soni, besides secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Asha Kumari are also expected to attend the event.
The ceremony will be a simple and low-key affair, with Amarinder deciding not to spend excessively on symbolism ‘on account of the poor financial health of the state’, it said.
The chief minister-designate has also appealed to all party MLAs and others not to indulge in excessive celebration and to keep the event austere so as not to further burden the ‘debt-ridden state exchequer’.
Singh said his government’s priority would be to bring the state’s economy, ‘which has been completely devastated under the SAD-BJP (Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party) regime, back on the rails through every possible measure and innovative, out-of-the-box initiatives’.
“We do not want to celebrate when the people of Punjab are suffering due to severe financial and other problems,” Singh said, adding that there will be time enough to celebrate once his government has brought the state back on the path of growth and development.
Several newly elected MLAs including Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Singh Badal, Brahm Mohindra, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Rana Gurjit Singh, Pargat Singh, Razia Sultana, O P Soni are in the race for becoming ministers, party sources said.
Having tasted electoral victory in Punjab after a gap of 10 years, the Congress would like to give representation to various sections and also accommodate experienced leaders and youth in the cabinet.
It remains to be seen who among the contenders for ministerial positions will be inducted on Thursday.
Riding on strong anti-incumbency, Congress stormed to power in Punjab after a gap of 10 years by winning 77 seats in the 117-assembly seats of the Vidhan Sabha.
Ruling SAD-BJP won 18, the Aam Aadmi Party fighting its maiden assembly polls in Punjab won 20 while 2 seats went to newly floated outfit and AAP ally Lok Insaaf Party.
This is the second time that Amarinder Singh would be taking the oath as chief minister having served in that capacity in 2002-2007.
IMAGE: Punjab CM-designate Captain Amarinder Singh meets Governor V P Singh Badnore at Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh. Photograph: PTI Photo